Jail and prison populations around the country have generated a lot of concern in the current pandemic – the inmates are held in a confined space and many are in poor health to begin with – but, so far, the two Guilford County jails have managed to dodge the coronavirus bullet.
Guilford County Sheriff’s Department Attorney James Secor stated in an email this week, in response to an inquiry from the Rhino Times, that the Guilford County jails haven’t seen a confirmed case of the virus yet.
“No, the GCSO [Guilford County Sheriff’s Office] has not experienced any confirmed COVID-19 positive inmates at either Jail Central [in Greensboro] or the High Point Jail to date,” he wrote.
Secor added that he hoped the Rhino Times didn’t jinx the jails by asking that question.
Part of the success of keeping the disease out so far no doubt is due to the major precautions the jails implemented starting on Friday, March 13, before state and county virus orders were in effect. Those steps included things like taking temperatures of those entering the jails and prohibiting visitation.
Secor stated that the jails do have a plan in place if an inmate tests positive.
“It consists of isolating any COVID-19 positive inmates in one of our five negative pressure cells at Jail Central while providing continuous medical care and observation,” Secor wrote in an email. “If we were to encounter more than five such inmates, we also have a spare 21-bed medical ward that was constructed when Jail Central was built (in the event that we needed room to grow) where we could isolate, treat and monitor such inmates. As a final measure, we have one 24 cell (48 bed) additional dormitory pod, where we could place infected individuals.”
One good thing for Guilford County is that, unlike many counties in North Carolina, the jails here have a whole lot of unused space.
According to Secor, if an inmate does get infected and needs medical care such as a ventilator, the Sheriff’s Department would transport him or her to a local hospital, and an officer would stand guard at the inmate’s bedside until he or she got well enough to return to jail.
According to Secor, both the Sherriff’s Department and Wellpath – the company that provides medical care to the inmates – have been “very pro-active” in instituting COVID-19 protocols. In addition to prohibiting visitation and taking temperatures of vendors, staff and new inmates, the Sheriff’s Department has worked with the courts to let those out of jail who could be let out and kept all newly-admitted inmates in a special cell block for the first 14 days of their stay.